So for this post I thought I’d give you a look at the set up I used to create this portrait of Jessica whom I photographed when filming educational content at Westcott HQ in Ohio, USA last week…
Westcott will be releasing the full video on their WestcottU site in the coming weeks and that’s where you’ll see me setting everything up, taking the pictures and then explaining to camera everything before, during and after.
One of the things I mention about in the video is where the idea for this portrait came from. Now if you’ve followed me for a while you’ll know that I’m a big believer in looking at other peoples’ work to give inspiration. Developing your own style and coming up with ideas is not easy so by looking at other peoples’ work it helps to get the grey matter working. In my book, Photograph Like a Thief I talk about copying others to help develop your own unique style.
Now that might sound a little odd but let’s think about it; we’re all different people with different upbringings, different likes and dislikes and all of this ultimately influences our style. A style isn’t something you can force. It just happens over time after lots and lots of practice and taking pictures. There is no shortcut BUT there has to be a starting point and this is what I mean about copying. Find other peoples’ work you like and try to reverse engineer it. How was it lit? Where are the shadows? Where are the highlights and so on, then try to replicate something about that picture. Great thing is you NEVER will be able to copy and that’s because of what I have just said with us all having different likes, dislikes and so on. If you want to know and understand more about this I highly recommend you check out a superb book by Austin Kleon titled Steal Like an Artist; this changed everything for me!
So when it comes to the portrait I made of Jessica the inspiration actually came from a picture I saw when looking through my Instagram feed and it’s the portrait below by @danidiamondphotography.
Straight away I found myself reverse engineering the picture figuring out how it could have been lit and then had the idea of photographing Westcott’s Social Media Guru, Jessica Wagner, in a similar style but with my own influence (different likes, dislikes, tastes etc…)
I immediately forwarded the picture to Jessica asking if she’d be willing to be photographed and straight away she replied yes. Sending someone a picture that is similar to what I want to do I have always found to be a great way to get people on board rather than trying to explain what I want to do.
Now that Jessica was on board and we’d confirmed this would be great content to film for WestcottU, it was then a case of figuring out what kit I would use to create similar light on Jessica. So, on that note here’s how I firstly reverse engineered the portrait…
Lighting Set Up
So here’s the set up I put together that gave me the lighting style on Jessica similar to the original picture by @danidiamondphotography…
- A background was positioned behind Jessica and she was firstly lit using the Westcott Rapid Box Switch Medium Octa in such a position to create Rembrandt Style Lighting (camera right, to the front of Jessica above and angled down).
- I then needed to bring in a second light to create the highlight on Jessica’s hair and jaw bone camera left. For this I opted for the Westcott Rapid Box Switch 24″ Beauty Dish because I didn’t necessarily need a large light source.
- When I first used this I was getting light spilling onto the background so to reduce that I used a black Westcott Fast Flag in position 1.
- Then it was a case of finessing the highlight on Jessica’s hair and jaw bone camera left and for this I used another black Westcott Fast Flag but this time in position 2. When using flags the slightest adjustment can make a huge difference but the trick here was to position it fairly close to Jessica otherwise if it was too far back the light would have the space to spread before hitting Jessica…does that make sense?
The series of pictures below show the stages of set up…
- This is where Jessica was lit using just the Westcott Rapid Box Switch Medium Octa, camera right
- The 2nd light has been introduced camera left and a Fast Flag has been used to reduce light spill on the background.
- The 2nd Fast Flag has now been introduced to control the highlight on Jessica’s hair and jaw bone camera left.
- Finessing the pose and reducing the power of the highlight camera left
Here’s a side by side between the original portrait I was inspired by from @danidiamondphotography and then my final portrait of Jessica. Note the similarity of the nose shadows and the highlight on Jessica’s hair and jaw bone but despite this, how different the final portrait is. Again this shows how we can draw influence from others to create our own pictures but also how reverse engineering pictures can have such a positive impact on your own learning and lighting.
- Westcott Rapid Box Switch Medium Octa (36″): LINK
- Westcott Rapid Box Switch Beauty Dish (White) (24″): LINK
- Westcott Fast Flags (Black) (24″ x 36″): LINK
- Westcott Vintage Grey Canvas by Glyn Dewis: LINK
For this picture I wanted a shallow depth of field where Jessica’s eyes were in focus and then from around her ears and beyond would be soft and out of focus so for this I chose to use the following settings:
- ISO 100
- Shutter Speed: 1/125 sec
- Aperture: f/2.8
Just in case you’re interested, the camera I was using was my Sony A7RII with the Sony 85mm f/1.4 G Master Lens fitted with a Manfrotto L Bracket and on my Manfrotto Tripod. The key light was metered at f/2.8 as was the 2nd light but this appears to be less purely because it was reduced using the flag.
You can check out a large version of the portrait over in my portfolio by CLICKING HERE
Right, I think that just about covers it all but if there’s anything else you want to know about this photo shoot or any questions you have, then please feel free to make use of the comments section below.
Oh, and I’ll make sure to let you know when the full Making Of / Behind the Scenes video is available on WestcottU.